Turtles of the genera Geoemyda and Pangshura (Testudines: Geoemydidae) lack differentiated sex chromosomes: the end of a 40-year error cascade for Pangshura

PeerJ. 2019 Feb 6:7:e6241. doi: 10.7717/peerj.6241. eCollection 2019.


For a long time, turtles of the family Geoemydidae have been considered exceptional because representatives of this family were thought to possess a wide variety of sex determination systems. In the present study, we cytogenetically studied Geoemyda spengleri and G. japonica and re-examined the putative presence of sex chromosomes in Pangshura smithii. Karyotypes were examined by assessing the occurrence of constitutive heterochromatin, by comparative genome hybridization and in situ hybridization with repetitive motifs, which are often accumulated on differentiated sex chromosomes in reptiles. We found similar karyotypes, similar distributions of constitutive heterochromatin and a similar topology of tested repetitive motifs for all three species. We did not detect differentiated sex chromosomes in any of the species. For P. smithii, a ZZ/ZW sex determination system, with differentiated sex chromosomes, was described more than 40 years ago, but this finding has never been re-examined and was cited in all reviews of sex determination in reptiles. Here, we show that the identification of sex chromosomes in the original report was based on the erroneous pairing of chromosomes in the karyogram, causing over decades an error cascade regarding the inferences derived from the putative existence of female heterogamety in geoemydid turtles.

Keywords: Comparative genome hybridization; Evolution; FISH; Karyotype; Microsatellite; Sex chromosomes; Sex determination; Telomeres; Turtles.

Grants and funding

The project was supported by the Charles University Project PRIMUS/SCI/46, by the Grant Agency of Charles University (GAUK 444217), and Charles University Research Centre Program (204069). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.